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Northern Reaches 0 – A West Marches Experiment

I am Co-GMing in a West Marches style game with some changes to suit my busy life.

I like playing ttRPGs.

I like it a lot. But… time, my friends. Time is scarce in my life at this stage. I thought that I was in love with creating worlds and campaigns for the players to throw their characters into. Which I am… I guess. But not really. What I am in love with is being at the table. I like creating cool shit (encounters, locations, NPCs, monsters, and lore) for people to interact with and most of all I like when the players start drawing conclusions based on the information they find during their adventures.

I’d have spent hours preparing my highly detailed world and adventure only to have the party draw conclusions that didn’t exist and runoff in the ‘wrong’ direction. I hated this. Because it meant that I had to do all the remembering of lore, locations, and NPCs. I had to be the one that knew what was happening in order for it all to come together at the end. And most importantly, I had to be the one to say ‘no, that’s not what’s happening.’

Then I learned about West Marches campaigns.


A campaign where the players are in control of where they are going and they decide what to do. I’m not going to go into detail about them, if you don’t know what they are you can find out what they’re all about by checking out theses:

These are the three best resources on it in my opinion (for beginners). There are plenty of other awesome resources too (West Marches Reddit for example). What I am going to go into detail about is why I am running one, how I set it up, and my journey through this style of play.

Why am I Running a West Marches Campaign?

Time. Quite simply I have limited time to play and I also do not have space for a regular gaming slot. I will have 1 night a week or fortnight to game, and it might not be the same night every time. Also, I’m in my 30s and most of my friends are too, all of a sudden, our lives just get filled with stuff.

A regular West Marches game works by the players deciding where they want to go and when they’re available and the DM works around that. Me, the father-husband-teacher-podcaster-writer, does not have that sort of flexibility. So, my method is slightly different. I say, ‘Hey, I’m available this Friday. Who’s keen for a game?’ Every one who can play puts their hands up and then they decide where they’re going and what they’re going to do. It’s worked well, so far.

Time also factors into how I want to prepare for each session, but I think that will get its own post when preparing for the first adventure.

There are also a lot of people in my region that play D&D and the last time I started a campaign I got 9 of them. Unsurprisingly, that was unruly and fell over pretty quick. So, I figure I will ask the same folks and see where we get to from there.

The Set-Up.

This was going to be one long post, but I am going to break this down into sections instead and release them over the next few weeks. They will be as follows:

There will be more too, I will also post some campaign diary sorta stuff along the way and any other insights I have.

It’s getting late for this father-husband-teacher-podcaster-writer, so I’m going to bed. But tomorrow morning I’ll write about the world and my thoughts on world-building for this sort of game.

If you would like to support my work and follow me on my journey into game design and writing you can support me on Patreon. 

P.S. Shout to Matt from Sealed Library for running a DCC West Marches and knocking down my self-made barriers to running a game like this. 


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March 2021
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